Summer interns assist CCH attorneys as they work with homeless students

(Front, from left) Ki'ara Cross and Diane O'Connell; (back, from left), Margaret Heitkamp, Ryan Greenlaw and Ridgeway Woulfe
Front, from left, Ki’ara Cross and Diane O’Connell; back, from left, Margaret Heitkamp, Ryan Greenlaw, Ridgeway Woulfe

CCH’s Law Project has been helped this summer by another capable group of legal interns. Among other projects, the interns helped contact the families of more than 630 homeless children impacted by the June closure of 49 Chicago Public elementary schools.

Internships were generously funded by the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI), Swarthmore College, and the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, which also supports the CCH Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic. 

Ridgeway Woulfe learned of the CCH internship through a scholarship given by the Alvin H. Baum Family Internship Program at John Marshall Law School.

“When I was informed about it, I was extremely excited by the opportunity for me to gain my first legal experience at such a well-respected organization,” Ridgeway writes. “Since high school, I had sought numerous opportunities to help the homeless, yet seemed to be unable to find one, which was as professional and multifaceted as the one at CCH.

“Being granted the opportunity to be a part of such an important community organization has already given me a tremendous chance to grow as a lawyer, a community organizer, and as a professional in general. I am most excited to have a position with the CCH because it will show me how to be a better leader in the future.”

Diane O’Connell is also a John Marshall law student. Committed to social justice and economic equality, Diane’s career as an activist began at age 17, when she protested the Iraq war and was an organizer for the Green Party. Shortly after, she moved to Puerto Rico, where she lived and worked for over two years.

When she returned to the U.S., Diane worked as an intern with a non-profit legal service group in Medford, Ore., and volunteered one summer as a legal advocate for Hurricane Katrina survivors in New Orleans. Diane moved to Chicago in 2008 after graduating from college and worked as a case manager for displaced public housing residents in south Chicago. Since beginning law school, Diane has worked for the John Marshall Veterans Clinic, as an immigration intern at Latinos Progresando, and as a clerk for the Cook County Public Defender and First Defense Legal Aid.

Diane writes that she is “excited to have the opportunity to learn from the experience of her colleagues and the struggles of the clients here at CCH.”

Ki’ara Cross interned through the Public Interest Law Initiative. Originally from St. Louis, she attended Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, which has come to be known as the “Harvard of the Midwest.” After earning a bachelor’s in Political Science from Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., Ki’ara began law school at the University of Missouri.

“I became interested in community outreach at a very young age due to my parents’ involvement with the church and community,” she writes. “They always encouraged me to get involved and to give back to those less fortunate. From several mission trips and volunteer activities, community service became something that I grew to enjoy and knew I would do consistently for the rest of my life.

“After starting law school I began to learn about various areas of the law, but one of the most interesting ones was public interest law.  It was, to me, a combination of community service and law bundled together and tied with a bow.  It presented me with an opportunity to do two of the things I most enjoy at the same time.

“Having recently returned from a trip to Cape Town, South Africa, homelessness was something very prominent on my mind, and as a result I applied to intern with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Thankfully, I was presented with an opportunity to help combat that right here in the city where I hope one day to practice law.”

Nathan Herbert also worked as a PILI fellow, assisting with legal research before joining Mayer Brown LLP as an associate in September. Nathan earned a J.D. magna cum laude from Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law last spring. In 2010, he graduated summa cum laude from State University of New York at Brockport, with a double major in philosophy and political science.

Margaret Heitkamp is a second-year law student at Northwestern University. Raised in Wisconsin and Illinois, Margaret went to college at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. before returning to Chicago. She also worked more than a year as a paralegal assistant for Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd, a Chicago firm that generously supports the work done by CCH.

“My family, including five siblings, mostly resides near Chicago so I consider Chicago “home” and hope to stay here,” Margaret writes.

“I was interested in interning at CCH because I like learning about new things. This summer is a great opportunity for me to learn about an aspect of life in Chicago that everyone sees and few people talk about. When presented with the opportunity to get involved and hopefully make at least a small difference in the lives of some of the homeless people in Chicago, I gladly accepted.”

Ryan Greenlaw will be a junior at Swarthmore, a liberal arts college outside of Philadelphia. Born and raised on the South Side, Ryan is pursuing a special major in economics and education, with a minor in Black Studies. Ryan coordinates a tutor and mentoring program called BluePrints, where he helps minority students in the Chester (Penn.) Upland School District.

Ryan’s work was made possible through a Summer Social Action Award, funded by Swarthmore’s Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. Ryan chose to work with CCH because of its Law Project, which advocates for CPS students who are homeless.

“This unique opportunity ties into my interests in social justice, with potential career aspirations,” Ryan writes.

– Anne Bowhay, Media